Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 24, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 22 of 55 SEPT. 24, 2018 23 VANDERBILT RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Although Notre Dame seemingly "dominated" this category by limiting Vanderbilt to 94 rushing yards and 3.5 yards per carry, much credit must be given to the Commodores for not abandoning the run after finishing the first quarter with only 11 yards on five attempts (no sacks involved) and 27 yards total in the first half. Yet they did just enough with the ground attack in the third quarter (nine carries for 32 yards) and fourth quarter (seven carries for 35 yards) to force the Irish defense to honor it and give the potent passing attack some breath- ing room. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame VANDERBILT PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE All five starters from the 2017 offensive line had returned for the Commo- dores, and senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur has started more than 30 games. That combination put Notre Dame on its heels most of the final two and half quarters, with Shurmur finishing 26-of-43 passing for 326 yards with a score. He was sacked once and hurried four times, a small percentage for the number of attempts. Notre Dame did break up a whopping nine passes, and junior Troy Pride Jr. intercepted a long, wounded-duck toss into the end zone. Particularly crucial was junior wideout Donaven Tennyson fumbling at the Irish 1-yard line after a 21-yard catch, and on the next series not holding on to a crossing route that could have been a potential touchdown (as a result, that possession resulted in a field goal). ADVANTAGE: Vanderbilt NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. VANDERBILT RUN DEFENSE It was clear after last week's poor performance against Ball State that run- ning the ball was the focal point of the Irish offense against the Commodores. Junior running back Tony Jones Jr. — 17 carries for 118 yards (6.9 yards per carry) — easily had his finest performance in a Notre Dame uniform, while senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush was utilized (19 carries for 84 yards and one touchdown) far better. There was only one "explosive," a 20-yard Jones run, but a 245-yard output at 5.1 yards per attempt and no fumbles is a quality effort. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. VANDERBILT PASS DEFENSE Other than 32- and 24-yard completions to Jones by Wimbush on the wheel route, and junior Ian Book's two-yard play-action touchdown to fifth-year se- nior tight end Nic Weishar, the Irish passing game remained mostly stagnant. Senior Miles Boykin and junior Chase Claypool were ineffective down the field, combining for two catches and 31 yards. The screen game that showed more promise in the first two games saw senior Chris Finke's five catches ac- count for six yards (no misprint). After throwing three interceptions last week, the main aim appeared to be keeping the aerial game conservative and not do harm. It was a strong effort by the Commodores to limit the Irish to 5.2 yards per pass attempt. ADVANTAGE: Vanderbilt SPECIAL TEAMS A 20-yard punt return by Trey Ellis to the Notre Dame's 47-yard line set up Vanderbilt's first touchdown. Otherwise, the Irish had the edge in this category. Senior kicker Justin Yoon made 3 of 4 field goal attempts, highlighted by a 46-yarder. Vanderbilt's Ryley Guay was 1 of 2. Both punters had stellar games, although fifth-year senior Tyler Newsome's single-game school-record 59.6- yard average on five punts was more conspicuous. Sophomore Jonathan Doerer had four of his six kickoffs result in touchbacks. Sophomore wideout Michael Young's 48-yard kickoff return in the fourth quar- ter was squandered with no points by the Irish offense. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS Vanderbilt had the better percentage at 5 of 13 (38.5 percent) to Notre Dame's 5 of 15 (33.3 percent), but the biggest third-down play was a 12-yard touchdown scramble by Wimbush on third-and-10 to help expand the Irish lead to 10-0. ADVANTAGE: Even TURNOVERS Notre Dame cashed in with only three points on the Commodores' three turnovers, one of them a fumble on the game's final play deep in Vanderbilt ter- ritory. Perhaps more vital was the Irish not fumbling or tossing an interception. A three-interception performance like Wimbush had the previous week would have likely resulted in a defeat this time. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame ANALYSIS During its 3-0 start, Notre Dame's offense has been eminently average and lacking an "oomph factor" that the majority of top teams possess while rou- tinely scoring 40 or more points per game. Fortunately, the Irish defense has possessed the resilience, especially in the red zone, to hold down the fort during threatening second-half onslaughts by the opponent. Style points are becoming an issue again in the way Notre Dame is perceived as more of a solid top-15 to top-20 team than a bona fide College Football Playoff threat. It does possess some elements of the 12-1 Irish squad in 2012 in that the defense often had to carry the freight while the offense was often in a "just don't screw up" mode. At some point, the offense will need to supply more because the defense can't compare yet to the 2012 edition. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI Sophomore wide receiver Michael Young contributed a 48-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter, but the Fighting Irish were unable to take advantage and did not convert it into points. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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